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Another quick start gives Mavericks 12th straight win

Dec 2, 2006 - 4:12 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- It was another lethally quick start for Josh Howard and the Dallas Mavericks.

Howard scored 10 of his 24 points in the first five minutes and triggered another early ambush as the Mavericks rolled to their 12th straight victory, a 109-90 trouncing of the Sacramento Kings.

Dirk Nowitzki had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Mavericks, who had five scorers in double figures, shooting 49 percent (37-of-76) from the field and 89 percent (24-of-27) from the line while collecting a season-high 26 assists.

"Everybody is becoming more comfortable with the system," Nowitzki said. "Everybody knows where they're supposed to be on the floor on both ends of the floor.

"Defensively, we're getting back to winning games the way we won games last year, and that's holding teams to low field-goal percentages. Offensively, it's moving the ball around and having a lot of guys scoring."

For the fourth straight game, Dallas never trailed, pouncing on its opponent from the opening tip.

"They're a team that comes out of the gates and has great first quarters, and tonight was no different," Kings coach Eric Musselman said. "We knew of their history in the first quarter, but we couldn't stop them."

Howard's early energy has had a lot to do with that. Since returning to the starting lineup four games ago, he has scored 11 points in the first 5 1/2 minutes of an 85-73 win over New Orleans, nine points in the opening quarter of a 93-87 win over Minnesota and 12 points in the first quarter of a 117-98 win over Toronto.

"Our scouting reports, knowing team's tendencies, is helping us out a lot and we're just staying focused," Howard said. "Guys are going out and doing what (coach Avery Johnson) wants us doing. We're playing hard no matter what the situation, no matter how much time you play. Guys are coming out playing hard. That's what we are doing."

"Josh has been the key to our rapid starts," Johnson said. "Josh has been coming out and doing a good job of moving the basketball."

It was more of the same Friday as Howard had a pair of 3-pointers and two jumpers to help Dallas open a 15-9 lead in the first four-plus minutes.

"I take what's given to me," Howard said. "I'm confident and my teammates are confident in me and I just roll with the punches."

"Josh has been coming out very aggressive, looking to get the ball to the hole," Mavericks guard Jason Terry said. "It's more than that, though. It's on the defensive end. He's getting rebounds, kicking it out, blocking shots, steals. He's just very active. That allows us to get out in transition and do things we like to do."

Howard's teammates joined in with a hailstorm of 3-pointers to close the period. A pair from Devean George and one each from Terry and Jerry Stackhouse highlighted a 14-2 burst that gave the Mavericks a 38-19 bulge.

The Kings got no closer than 17 points thereafter. A layup by Anthony Johnson gave Dallas a 58-34 advantage with 2:40 left in the first half, and a 3-pointer by Howard gave the Mavericks their largest lead at 80-48 midway through the third period.

Dallas was so good it really didn't need Nowitzki, who missed the second half of Wednesday's win over Toronto with a bruised retina. The superstar forward made just 4-of-15 shots in 27 minutes.

"Very, very deep team," Terry said. "We knew putting this team together that we were going to be deep. That's one of our strong suits, and if guys come to play the way we did tonight, every night, on a consistent basis, then we like our chances."

Stackhouse and Devin Harris scored 13 points each, Anthony Johnson handed out 10 assists and fellow reserve DeSagana Diop swept 10 boards for the Mavs, who held a 49-38 advantage on the glass.

Ron Artest scored 15 points off the bench for the Kings, who shot 44 percent (34-of-77) and missed 12 free throws. Artest did not start due to a sore back.

In losing its fifth straight visit to Dallas, Sacramento had a three-game winning streak snapped.

"We knew it was going to be tough," said Kings guard Kevin Martin, who scored 13 points. "You play the Mavericks, it's going to be a tough game, especially when they're on a 12-game winning streak."

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